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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Image credit: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967.

This week marks yet another Thanksgiving for Cinema Sips, and although in the past we’ve covered cinema feasts such as those in The Godfather and Giant, I really don’t feel like cooking this year. Luckily, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Disc/Download) features no actual dinner; only cocktails.  In other words, my kind of party!

Made in 1967 during the height of the civil rights movement, this final Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film collaboration features Sidney Poitier as the fiancé of a white, upper-class daughter of two liberals who have difficulty practicing what they preach.  Sure, they proudly proclaim that African Americans should have equal rights, but when their daughter gets off a plane from Hawaii with a handsome black doctor, those beliefs become complicated.  Directed by Stanley Kramer, this richly drawn film presents all sides to the debate of love vs. societal prejudice.  The daughter (played by Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) comes across as naïve, but with a pure heart untouched by prejudice and hate.  And isn’t that what we all wish for?  That kids would never have to hear ugly racist words, and never be faced with a “pigmentation problem” as Tracy puts it. This girl has found the perfect man, one who’s handsome, smart, and respectful, and looks ever-so-charming with a daisy behind his ear.  I’d say that’s worth fighting a few bigots for.

As this dinner party at a San Francisco mansion grows to include the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the central couple, and a priest, the bar cart gets some heavy use. Meanwhile, the sassy maid is hiding in the kitchen with her cauldron of turtle soup, wondering why these crazy people won’t sit down and eat something.  Let’s take our lead from the moms in this movie, those sensible moms with a preference for sherry and young love.  While watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, I recommend drinking a Sherry Cobbler.

Sherry Cobbler

3 ½ oz Sherry

½ oz simple syrup

2 orange slices

2 lemon slices

Cranberries for garnish

Combine simple syrup and one slice each of orange and lemon in the bottom of a shaker.  Muddle oranges, then add sherry and ice.  Shake well, until chilled.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with a fresh orange slice, lemon slice and fresh cranberries.

Sherry Cobbler

As I write this post, many dinner tables across America are still deeply divided.  There is a chasm between young and old, liberal and conservative, much as there was over fifty years ago in this movie.  Equal rights are still a dream we’re fighting for, but as this movie shows us, it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it to stand up to your elders and say love is all that matters; hate has no place at the table.  Cheers!

The Philadelphia Story

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Philadelphia Story

I am so excited this week to write about one of my favorite films from the golden age of Hollywood, The Philadelphia Story. One of the reasons this is a favorite of mine is not just because of its sparkling dialogue, beautiful art deco sets, and long langorous cocktail hours of a wealthy Philadelphia family, but rather because it stars one of my all-time favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart. In a strange coincidence, I was actually born and raised in Jimmy Stewart’s hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. However, I like to think I would have been a fan even if our ancestors hadn’t shared the same zip code once upon a time. The Philadelphia Story was actually the film that won Stewart his only acting Academy Award in 1941, and it’s easy to see why. His performance as writer Macaulay “Mike” Connor is just marvelous.

The other two big stars of this film are Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Hepburn plays a divorced Philadelphia socialite who’s engaged to be married once again. Her ex-husband (played by Grant) comes to see her the day before the wedding, bringing along two reporters who are there to cover the wedding, but really do little more than get under Hepburn’s skin. Hepburn and Grant’s verbal sparring is masterful, however it is truly Jimmy Stewart as a reporter who steals the show (and for a time, Hepburn’s heart). He breezes into all of his scenes, tall and lanky and charming, offering up the absolute best one liners. I swear, every time I watch him ask the librarian at a Quaker library “Dost thou have a washroom?” I get the giggles. This is also a great film for cocktail pairings because Grant has a long history with whiskey, and Hepburn and Stewart have a booze and moonlight-fueled tryst by the swimming pool. They break into the wedding champagne a touch early, giving Jimmy Stewart a chance to really show his acting chops as a happy drunk.

When I watch this film, so many cocktail opportunities come to mind. On one hand, I’d love to mix up a batch of Uncle Willie’s Stingers, however with so much bubbly flowing, I’ve got to go with a classic champagne cocktail. This week, I’m serving up a drink called Cinderella’s Slipper (the name’s origin will become obvious about halfway through the movie).

CinderellasSlipper

Cinderella’s Slipper

1 Sugar Cube

2-3 Dashes Angostura bitters

1 oz Brandy

Champagne

Orange peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute. Use the dashes of Angostura bitters to saturate the sugar cube. Add the brandy. As you fill the flute with champagne, the sugar cube will dissolve. Garnish with orange peel.

This drink typically calls for a maraschino cherry as a garnish in the bottom of the flute, but I like to think that Hepburn’s character Tracy Lord would never do anything so gauche. Sip this as you watch Jimmy Stewart carry Katharine Hepburn around in his fluffy white robe, and I dare you to not chime in when he starts drunkenly shouting “Oh C.K. Dexter Haaaaven!” This film is classic Hollywood screwball comedy at its best, and I for one plan on watching it, champagne flute in hand, while imagining what it must have been like to be Katharine Hepburn back then. Cary Grant on my right arm, Jimmy Stewart on my left. Not exactly a terrible place to be. Cheers!

Drawing by Christopher Locke

Drawing by Christopher Locke